Friday, 26 September 2014

On the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

The first impression of confirmation that the ten AGMA authorities are to develop the nascent spatial framework (GMSF) for identifying future housing and land requirements into a statutory joint Development Plan Document (DPD) was a positive one. The replacement of regional planning by the current Government with a wishy-washy 'duty-to-co-operate' was to the detriment of strategic plan-making, and Greater Manchester, functioning as it does as a single spatial entity, will manifestly benefit from more coordinated planning.

On reflection though, one starts to wonder about the ability of the ten LPAs to get local plans in place whilst the GMSF process is ongoing. Although the consultation document states that "no weight should be attached to the intention to produce the GMSF or the initial evidence that is the subject of this consultation", it is also stated that "the objectively assessed needs or requirements for individual districts will be a key output of future stages of work on the GMSF".

The stated timetable envisages that a GMSF will be adopted in 2018, but we should add a couple of years to that just in case. Even if individual LPAs start work on the amendments to Green Belt boundaries and the identification of specific sites before the adoption of the GMSF, it is hard to imagine that allocations will be confirmed much before 2022. That is eight years away. What are the ten LPAs to do in the meantime? What is the development industry to do in the meantime? What is the city's growing population to do in the meantime?

The Oldham (November, 2011), Trafford (January, 2012) and Stockport (March 2011) Core Strategies were adopted before the NPPF (March 2012) and Manchester's (July, 2012) came soon afterwards. It is now accepted (confirmed in the Broom Hill, Sevenoaks appeal from October 2013) that the NPPF's requirement for LPAs to meet the full, objectively assessed needs attracts more weight than housing requirements included in development plans adopted in accordance with the previous advice in PPS3 (which required the provision of a sufficient quantity of housing taking into account need and demand). 

What progress now in Rochdale, Bury and Salford? Since the suspension of the Rochdale EiP the Council had been producing an up-to-date SHMA, but this was delayed so that the latest population projections published by ONS could be taken account of within the study. The Inspector examining the Bury Core Strategy wrote to the Council in July 2014 following its suspension and said that:

The Council has also referred to the potential need for an early review of the plan (possibly in connection with housing) in the light of the emerging Greater Manchester Strategic Framework (GMSF). Clearly it would be inappropriate to delay the adoption of a plan indefinitely but given the potential significance of the GMSF to Bury, I can see sense, in the current situation, of awaiting its outcome before producing a plan - as I understand from the hearings neighbouring Salford intends to do.

Why would these LPAs carry on with identifying their own objectively assessed housing need so as to progress with a local plan when the GMSF process is ongoing?

In summary, the principle of greater-than-local planning is a sound one, and in Greater Manchester particularly it chimes with the 'Devo-Manc' agenda, but will a statutory joint DPD mean that the objectively assessed housing requirement of 10,706 net additional dwellings per annum is met sooner rather than later? Would progress not be swifter by identifying objectively assessed needs for individual districts through the local plan process now? Who knows, but it is going to be interesting finding out...

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